SLUG COMPARISON – When You Were Living Here

Rock Company 2018

SLUG COMPARISON - When You Were Living Here

SLUG COMPARISON –
When You Were Living Here

Canadian auteur explores expectancy and desperation to find cathartic cleansing of his soul.

It’s easy to assume this album would be dripping with gloom, but whatever metal or prog imagery its cover brings to mind, FEN singer Doug Harrison is bent on bringing a new angle to any tentative thought. Twenty years down the line from his main band’s start, he’s eager to discover alternative routes, and “When You Were Living Here” should find the artist on the second stretch of a strangely named journey. Not an easy one – with album’s beauty revealed through repeated spins.

The original suggestion of darkness seems justified when jagged edge and righteous spank propel opener “Exactly What To Do” to the verge of despair, yet dirty and heavy riffs are a rare treat here, as Sam Levin’s guitar rage – tasty as it is – will rear its head again on the finale of “One More Step” whereas most of the record’s numbers meander between Gothic balladry and hard-boiled bravado. There are other ways to vent anger, still, and “Hyperslump” does it by forcing a smile on the listener’s face via the ’70s-styled disco jive, although lyrical references to musical performances in “So Ya Got A Great Guitar” only jar, despite the piece’s folk drive, because Doug’s delirious delivery can’t match his funky ambition.

While “Fine With it” is awash in a vibrant, Buckleys-like acoustic anguish, the reflective “Let Some Light” has translucent optimism written over the ensemble strum. Yet if the slow steps of the orchestra-drenched-drenched title drama sound velvet-soft and sinister at the same time, “Beings Far Away” purifies Harrison’s romantic intent, especially when his vocal harmonies and six-strings lace elevate it all above the obvious development of a song. As a result, this album struggles to find its stylistic pasture and is bound to perplex and enchant an ear in equal measure.

***4/5

February 2, 2019

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